Friday, October 09, 2009

The Nobel Announcement Was Somewhat Unexpected

In keeping with the theme of the day, I found this delightful story at A Tiny Revolution:
Years ago, a rug cleaner in LA got an early-morning phone call from Stockholm to inform him that he'd won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Oops, wrong number. The lucky man ended up on the Tonight Show: "I was surprised. I mean, I know I do a darn good job cleaning carpets. I can tell you which chemicals work best for ketchup stains, red wine spills, etc. But the Nobel Prize? I thought, maybe that's a bit excessive." There was an honest man.
I was trying to figure out if Bernard Chazelle was simply making that up, but a bit of googling turned up this independent version of the story:
In the predawn darkness of 16 October 1987, the phone rang in the Altadena, California, bedroom of Donald Cram, owner of a rug-cleaning business. In a fluting voice, an unknown caller congratulated the sleepy Cram on winning the Nobel Prize. Thinking he recognized the voice of a pal known for practical joking, Cram hung up. But the man with the strange accent called back and insisted that Cram's work on molecular structure had indeed taken science's top honor. That's when the former chemistry major groggily realized that his frustrated caller wanted the Los Angeles area's other Donald Cram, the one who taught at the University of California, (UC) Los Angeles, and had an unlisted phone number. [Link added] perhaps it's true after all.

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